More Than Half of Online Ads Fail Viewability Standard

Units collide up to 7 percent of the time, says AdSafe Media

The online ad industry’s Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) initiative calls for a new viewability metric that would only measure when 50 percent of an ad is in view for at least one second. The problem is, fewer than half of online ads meet that standard, according to a forthcoming study due out Tuesday.

The study by AdSafe Media, which offers products that promise to safeguard brands' ads online, shows that 49.9 percent of ads sold directly hit the proposed requirement. The number shrinks to 41.2 percent in the case of ads sold through ad networks and 40.3 percent of ads sold through ad exchanges.

And that’s only for a second-long peek. When extending the in-view window to 15 seconds, the stats dwindle to 21.1 percent for ads bought directly through the publisher, 16.4 percent for exchange buys and 16.3 percent for network buys.

The findings are based on impressions examined during the first half of 2012.

AdSafe also looked at cases of ad collision, or instances when multiple ads from one advertiser’s campaign pop up on the same page. That unintentionally happens with 6 percent to 7 percent of the ads that get served. While doubling up an advertiser’s presence on the page could juice the likelihood of the brand’s paid media being seen, said AdSafe svp of product management David Hahn, it “represents a pretty significant loss of value” because the likelihood of a user converting drops for both.

Instead of getting views through two ads colliding, brands could be better off buying one long vertical ad. Ads measuring 160 x 600 pixels meet the 3MS viewability standard 53.1 percent of the time (and 68.1 percent of the time if bought directly). For 728 x 90 pixel ads—those wide horizontal ones usually found atop the page—the requirement is met 36.1 percent of the time, whereas the boxy 300 x 250 units hit the mark 38.4 percent of the time.

AdSafe also examined the most high-risk content categories and found that porn and piracy are more pervasive than ever. Of publishers’ high-risk inventory, illegal downloads and adult content accounted for 28.7 percent and 17.1 percent, respectively.

When it came to exchanges, illegal downloads dropped to 23.4 percent, but adult content rose to 30.2 percent. As for the networks, illegal downloads made up 26.3 percent while adult content topped it at 29.1 percent.